Stephen Zunes : Nuclear and Chemical Weapons
The U.S. bombing of Syria’s Al Shayrat air base has brought more death and destruction to that country and is unlikely to deter additional war crimes by the Syrian regime. It will not ease the suffering of the Syrian people.
Let’s not pretend that Thursday night’s U.S. missile strike on Syria’s Al Shayrat air base has anything to do with concern for the civilian victims of the regime’s apparent April 3 chemical weapons attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun.
More than a hundred people were killed in a chemical attack in Khan Shaikhoun, Syria this week. Among the dead are a dozen or so children. Turkish doctors have conducted autopsies confirming that chemical weapons were used in the worst such attack in years.
During the Bush administration, I wrote more than a dozen annotated critiques of presidential speeches. I have refrained from doing so under President Barack Obama, however, because – despite a number of disappointments with his administration’s policies — I found his speeches to be relatively reasonable. Although his September 21 address before the UN General Assembly contained a number of positive elements, in many ways it also contained many of the same kind of duplicitous and misleading statements one would have expected from his predecessor.
My reaction to the awarding this past weekend of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize to the International Atomic Energy Agency and its director Mohammed El-Baradei was similar to my reaction to the awarding of the 2002 prize to former President Jimmy Carter: while they have pursued a number of policies contrary to the spirit of the Nobel Peace Prize, they have also done much to make the world a safer place.
The recent release on April 22 of Mordechai Vanunu from an Israeli prison provides an opportunity to challenge the U.S. policy of supporting Israel ’s development of nuclear weapons while threatening war against other Middle Eastern states for simply having the potential for developing such weaponry. Vanunu, a nuclear technician at Israel ’s Dimona nuclear […]
The election of the hard-line Teheran mayor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, over former President Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani as the new head of Iran is undeniably a setback for those hoping to advance greater social and political freedom in that country. It should not necessarily be seen as a turn to the right by the Iranian electorate, however. The 70-year old Rafsanjani—a cleric and penultimate wheeler-dealer from the political establishment—was portrayed as the more moderate conservative. The fact that he had become a millionaire while in government was apparently seen as less important than his modest reform agenda. By contrast, the young Teheran mayor focused on the plight of the poor and cleaning up corruption.
For more than two decades, arms control experts have argued that the most likely scenario for the hostile use of nuclear weapons was not between the former Cold War superpower rivals, an act of terrorism by an underground terrorist group, or the periodically threatened unilateral U.S. attack against a “rogue state,” but between India and Pakistan. These two South Asian rivals have fought each other in three major wars—in 1947, 1965, and 1971—and have engaged in frequent border clashes in recent years in the disputed Kashmir region, coming close to another all-out war as recently as 2002.
Most of the international community and arms control advocates here in the United States have correctly blamed the Bush administration for the failure of the recently completed review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In the course of the four-week meeting of representatives of the 188 countries which have signed and ratified the treaty, the United States refused to uphold its previous arms control pledges, blocked consideration of the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, refused to rule out U.S. nuclear attacks against non-nuclear states, and demanded that Iran and North Korea—but not U.S. allies like Israel, Pakistan, and India—be singled out for UN sanctions for their nuclear programs. Thomas Graham, who served as a U.S. envoy to disarmament talks in the Clinton administration noted that the Bush administration’s demands resulted in what appears to be “the most acute failure in the treaty’s history.”1
In a world seemingly gone mad, it is ironic that one of most sane and reasonable actions to come out of the Middle East recently has emanated from the government of Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan dictator long recognized as an international outlaw.