Middle East Approaches Meltdown: Report from the United Nations

Donald Paneth Apr 5, 2006

UNITED NATIONS, N.Y.—Attempting to decipher events in the Middle East, it is necessary to bring together a large number of factors – among them, the intensifying violence in Iraq, the U.S.-Iran nuclear dispute, a U.S.-Iranian agreement to hold direct talks on the sectarian struggle in Iraq, an impending Hamas-Israel collision, the intricacies of diplomatic, political, and regional negotiations, and the atmosphere of secrecy and confusion, uncertainty and apprehension that obscures all of these circumstances.

As peace demonstrations took place in New York, London, and other cities across the globe on the third anniversary of the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq, U.S. defense chief Donald Rumsfeld declared in a Washington Post op-ed piece on March 19 that to withdraw from Iraq would be like handing Germany back to the Nazis after World War II.

Critics ridiculed the Rumsfeld statement as clumsy U.S. propaganda, an invidious comparison, implying that peace protesters were displaying swastikas rather than “No War” banners.

Well-informed U.N. sources and many others described the rising political-sectarian-resistance conflict in Iraq as civil war. Members of the Bush administration and the British defense minister denied that contention.

The issue of Iran’s compliance with the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) moved into a new phase on March 17 with the U.N. Security Council taking up a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at a closed-door session.

Following the meeting, diplomats told reporters that the Council was near agreement on a text reaffirming that Iran should comply with calls from the IAEA and seeking a further report from IAEA Director-General Mohammed ElBaredei.

Council discussions had centered on a February IAEA report expressing concern that “uncertainties related to the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear program have not been clarified after three years of intensive Agency verification.”

A 15-day deadline for an Iranian reply was being considered.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov was reported to have suggested that such a deadline would put the U.S. in position to attack Iran by June, should it choose to.

“I know how the Security Council works,” Lavrov had previously explained. “You start with a soft reminder, then you call upon, then you require, then you demand, then you threaten. It will become a self-propelling function.”

A U.S. attack on dispersed Iranian nuclear facilities, observers here said, would be by air. U.S. troops, bogged down in Iran and Afghanistan, could not undertake a land invasion.

Western mass media generally omit to mention that the major nuclear powers – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States – are, themselves, in violation of the NPT, having failed to reduce significantly or eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

Nor is there mention that the United States has explicitly violated Articles I and II of the treaty against transferring “to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly.” According to a February 2005 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands “today store U.S. nuclear weapons at their national air bases.”

Other nuclear states – Israel, India and Pakistan – are not parties to the NPT and are getting away with it, as is North Korea which has withdrawn its adherence to the treaty. Iran alone is being held to account.

Multiple catastrophes are building up in the Middle East.

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