Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Nuts indeed - but that's Dubya for you.

Nuking our Way to Non-Proliferation

It is not only Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who is getting a sense of deja vu all over again. Until last week Deadline Pundit had been getting the type of funny looks previously reserved for the Ancient Mariner "Unhand me, grey-beard loon," when I suggested that there were high ups in Washington who were seriously planning military attacks on Iran.

And now it is out in the open, helped considerably by Seymour Hersh who is yet again saving the declining reputation of American journalism with his New Yorker piece. ( http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/060417fa_fact ) Dan Plesch was in fact saying the same thing a month ago citing the Federation of American Scientists (see www.danplesch.net and www.fas.org) but because he did not say it in the New Yorker, no one noticed. But with Hersh's article. at last American mainstream reporters had a question to ask the administration, and the sound of silence was deafening. As far as I can see no White House or Pentagon spokesman categorically deny Hersh's premise.

British foreign secretary Jack Straw dismissed the idea as "completely nuts," which is, of course, true. It is also true that Jack has missed some very obvious salient facts including the dubious rationality of the White House, and indeed the insanity of the attack on Iraq. And once again, while Straw has been quite clear about his disapproval of military intervention, Tony Blair himself has been a noticeably reticent to disavow military action.

Straw, quite rightly, is pleading for diplomacy. However, you cannot have a diplomatic solution when the main protagonist, the US, refuses to talk to Iran, (ironically, except about Iraq) and is making plain that it wants to overthrow the regime.

This is more than contingency planning. It is clear that for some in the White House, almost certainly including Bush himself, the Iranian nukes, are just a McGuffin, a plot device to effect a regime change in Teheran, just as the Iraqi WMD's were in Baghdad. With mid-term elections impending, and Bush's popularity falling, the pressure will be for action this year. Watch out for implications that the problems of Iraq are all because of Iranian interference.

Equally ironically, in a week when there were near-libelous attacks on John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt for their Harvard paper on the Israel Lobby, the American Jewish Committee tried to put truth in the rumors by running a full-page ad in the Financial Times, implicitly calling for an attack on Iran.

The prospect of the US launching tactical nuclear strikes against Iran on behalf of the only nuclear power in the Middle East, in the name of nuclear non-proliferation, should at least waken the jaded sense of irony of other members of the Security Council.

The danger is that the Europeans, Russians and Chinese may, as they did over Iraq, take the administration's camouflage at face value, and help Bush and Blair get within diplomatic range of launching military operations to "enforce UN decisions."

They should be demanding an unequivocal repudiation of unilateral military action as an absolute prerequisite for any further support for diplomatic pressure on Iran.

Recess Appointment to the Human Rights Council?

It was very wise of the US not to run as a candidate for the new UN Human Rights Council. Even though the other members would have been unwise not to let the US win a seat, the resentment against John Bolton and the White House was probably too strong for delegates not to indulge themselves in the vindictive satisfaction of voting against Washington.

Once again, the old irony raises its rusty point. John Bolton had castigated the other members of the UN for allowing the new Council members to be elected by a simple majority rather than two thirds–which would have made it impossible, instead of just extremely difficult to get the US elected this year!

He also complained (correctly) that the resolution setting up the Council had no explicit bar to the usual type of UN General Assembly gerrymandering, where regional groups agree only to field the number of candidates for the number of seats.

But watch out for next year! When the US was voted off the budget committee, the ACABQ, last time, the British and others joined with them the following year to put the screws on New Zealand, which had defeated the US, to stand down. New Zealand did the noble thing and made way for the US, since it was told that the US would not pay the arrears if it were not represented. In this global Tammany Hall election, the US won with no opposition – and still did not pay the dues arrears. In similar fashion, the US lost an election to the Human Rights Commission in 2001, The US could only get 29 votes for one of the three seats, compared with France with 52 votes; Austria, 41; and Sweden, 32.

The following year, the US tried to get the WEOG group to adopt exactly the same rotation system for candidacies which other regional groups used to avoid elections, and which has resulted in human rights offenders getting on the Commission.

Failing in that, with its allies, it put heavy pressure on previously declared candidates Spain and Italy to withdraw in its favor, and in another triumph for democracy, the US was declared elected to the Commission without the tedious necessity for a vote.

We will almost certainly see some similar attempts for next year's elections for the Human Rights Council, which would be a really shameless invitation to other regional groups to do the same.

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