The Nuclear “Threat” At the End Of The Age Of Petroleum
By Zbignew Zingh
27 January, 2006
It is still an unanswered question who ginned up the fake Niger “yellow cake” memorandum that underlay the case for invading Iraq, and who outed Valerie Plame is still not definitively known. Yet barely three years after America invaded and occupied Iraq on the false pretense that it was developing atomic weapons, the Administration, once again, is clanging the nuclear alarm bells.
Like Strangelovian-Pavlovian dogs trained to attack at the ringing of that bell, America's citizens are whipped into a bellicose, salivating, “preemptive” war frenzy whenever its media and leaders choose. Never mind that Iraq really had no nuclear or chemical or biological weapons. Now there is Iran, and if Iraq was liquidated on the mere suspicion of thinking about the possibility of going nuclear, America's president cannot resist another war strike against an easily demonized “enemy”, this time against a land of tawny-skinned, bearded non-Christian Persians who bluntly state that they distrust America and its allies, that they intend to develop nuclear power generation, and whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will not even wear a western style neck-tie!
America says that it is obsessed with preventing the “spread” of nuclear weapons -- as much now as it was determined to remain the sole nation armed with atomic ordinance at the end of the Second World War. But it opened Pandora's Box at Hiroshima, and soon Russia, then Britain and France, then China and Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea joined this most dubious boys' club. More will follow suit. Pandora's Box, once opened, simply cannot be reconstructed by pounding in nails with a military hammer. If you try, you only break the box forever.
There are at least five reasons why the West, and America in particular, fears a nuclear Iran, even if it is only pursuing nuclear power generation.
First, an empire cannot abide a rival or a rebel. Like Asimov's galactic empire of the Foundation Trilogy, the United States will not tolerate any deviation from subservience, because the successful rebellion of one will invite the rebellion of all others. Thus do empires disintegrate. There are other rebels' in the world today -- most notably in South America where Bolivarian style revolutions are emancipating economies and politics from a colonial past. But for the insurgent Iraqis, like Lilliputians who have tied Gulliver down to the ground, the United States would have already tried harder to stamp out the Bolivarians in South America, and, undoubtedly, it will try to do so again (if it could ever put the Middle East to the yoke). Iran, however, lies adjacent to the where the American soldiers and weapons now are stockpiled. To it, therefore, will Washington apply the first lash in an effort to frighten all others back into line.
Second, indeed there is a close correlation between nuclear power generation and the development of nuclear weapons. The technology to do one naturally feeds the technology necessary for the other. The more nuclear power plants a country has, the more nuclear weapons it can produce. America knows this because its own nuclear power plants fed America's nuclear weapons build-up, and the Administration's push to build more “civilian” nuclear reactors will, in turn, feed the next generation of American nuclear weapons.
Similarly Japan, which, at America's instigation, is now determined to amend its pacifist post-war constitution to create an offensive military capability, can translate its nuclear power generation capacity into nuclear weaponry in the twinkling of an eye. Japan has the fissionable material, it has the technical know-how, and, soon, it will also have the constitutional mandate to build its own nuclear arsenal. Unfortunately, the United States is egging on a re-militarized Japan as a “bulwark” against China. In the process, the US is intentionally fomenting an Asian arms race which can serve only American business interests.
The correlation between atomic power and atomic weapons sends tremors up the spines of the generals because, as North Korea demonstrated, the best defense against “Shock and Awe” aggression like that visited upon Iraq is a the threat of a nuclear counter-strike. However rudimentary the bomb or the delivery system might be, nuclear arsenals are truly the antidote to geopolitical domination. You do not mess with a venomous snake, but the fangless garter snake -- like Saddam Hussein -- ends up as your cowboy boots.
The third reason why America fears Iran's nuclear power ambition is because of the waste nuclear power produces. Both the Gulf War in 1991 and the Iraq War in 2003 were “nuclear wars” in which the United States deployed tons of depleted uranium munitions. DU shells cut through Iraqi armor like a hot knife through butter. The Pentagon does not care that the DU dust has sickened, and will sicken, thousands of Iraqi civilians and thousands of American soldiers and their unborn children. The Pentagon cares only that depleted uranium weapons significantly shift the military balance of power to those that have them.
The depleted uranium used by America's tanks and gunships is a by-product of America's nuclear power generation. It is the waste that no one knows how to dispose of safely, the multi-million year contaminant that nobody wants to store. This radioactive waste that is not suitable for generating power is, however, plentiful and exceedingly dense; thus, an ideal -- if highly toxic -- material for building military projectiles.
The last thing the generals want, however, is for another country -- let alone a country that does not kowtow to Washington -- to develop a source of DU weaponry. No sane nation would subject its own people or soldiers to such poisonous weapons, but -- like any other nuclear pox released from Pandora's Box -- if one country has them and uses them on the field of battle, then those who do not have them will strive to obtain them. Likewise, those who do have such weapons, will take extraordinary measures to prevent anyone else from having them, too.
A fourth reason: ensuring that everyone depends on America for their energy needs is as much a key to hegemony as is securing America's own sources of energy. Control of international energy resources also translates into control of international finance, for the strength of the dollar now depends on nothing less than its value as the standard exchange medium for oil. The dollar is not pegged to gold or silver or even the American economy. Rather, the U.S. currency “floats.” It floats on the oil that is essential to the world's industrial economies.
Iran, like Russia, also holds large reserves of natural gas in addition to oil. However, notwithstanding gas liquefaction and its cryogenic transportation by super-tanker, natural gas is used most economically on the continent where it is found. In the case of Iran, lying astride Europe and Asia, its continental markets lie both east toward China and India, and west toward Europe. The United States is not an optimum consumer of Iranian energy products. China, India and Europe are. Thus Iran, like its Russian gas-and-oil-rich neighbor to the north, not only has a domestic energy resource to fuel its own economy, it also has the ability to control other countries who will depend on it for their own economic viability. Therefore, Iran is a two-fold rival to the United States in that it challenges American dominance of the world's energy resources; and by being the fuel supplier of first-resort to China, India and Europe, Iran gives those nations, too, the ability to resist American influence.
The fifth reason why Washington wants to prevent Iran from developing nuclear power generation, is the most obvious and as important as the other four: it simply does not want Iran to develop an alternative to oil and gas for generating power.
Although Iran is one of the biggest exporters of hydrocarbons in the world, its oil production has peaked and its natural gas production will eventually peak as well. Just like in the United States, the North Sea, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, there are no more large oil fields to find in Iran. It is not that the oil itself will “run out,” it is that the cheap fuel, the low-hanging fruit, has been tapped out around the world. As that happens, nations necessarily will follow one or a combination of three paths -- they will conserve and reduce, or they will attempt to acquire or control the available petroleum for themselves, or they will develop alternative energy sources.
The United States, with Great Britain in its tow, has followed the second course, because it has the military power to seize and control the oil belonging to others, because it needs the oil for its own domestic and military consumption and because it wants to dominate every other hydrocarbon-dependent nation by controlling their energy sources, too.
Iran now seeks to follow the third course -- developing an alternative to hydrocarbons -- because it recognizes that when the gas and oil ultimately become too expensive to extract and refine, it will have to become an American vassal if it has not developed a viable energy alternative.
In the 21st Century, energy independence is essential for political, economic and cultural independence. Those that have it can escape the gravitational pull of America; those that do not will be pulled into and absorbed by it.
In the case of Iran, it certainly perceives nuclear power as one of its few options to cushion its petroleum and natural gas descent, to preserve its independence and to escape the orbit of the United States.
Perhaps those reasons alone -- its presumption that it can be independent in every sense of the word -- guarantee that the United States and/or its allies will strike Iran a violent blow.
It is not that nuclear energy is a smart, safe or economical alternative energy source. Nor is the current Iranian regime any better, or worse, than governments anywhere else in the world. The point of this analysis is simply to recognize where events probably lead as an inevitable worldwide energy and resource crisis escalates into increasingly volatile confrontations.
Zbignew Zingh can be reached at Zbig@ersarts.com. This Article is CopyLeft, and free to distribute, reprint, repost, sing at a recital, spray paint, scribble in a toilet stall, etc. to your heart’s content, with proper author citation. Find out more about Copyleft and read other great articles at www.ersarts.com. copyleft 2006