Revolution#109, November 18, 2007

Who is the Greatest Proliferator of Nuclear Weapons?

On November 7, Bush told a German interviewer that his “World War 3” statement was justified “[B]ecause this is a country that has defied the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency].”

Bush meant Iran. Since secret elements of Iran’s nuclear program were revealed in 2002, Iran has had a contentious relationship with the IAEA. Recently, Iran appears to be cooperating with the IAEA. In late October, the agency’s deputy director, Olli Heinonen, told reporters that Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA was “good.” Iran has not ratified all components of the IAEA that would restrict its nuclear energy program. Iran’s nuclear program could provide the basis to develop nuclear weapons at some point. And the Islamic Republic of Iran does have aspirations to regional power, and with such ambitions come the compulsion to develop nuclear weapons.

But no country comes close to the United States in defying international agreements against the spread and use of nuclear weapons—agreements administered by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). The IAEA enforces the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), supposedly an agreement of the world’s governments to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. The NPT does not ban nuclear weapons, or their use. In large part, the point of the NPT is to maintain the monopoly of nuclear weapons in the hands of a handful of world powers—mainly the United States and Russia. Nuclear powers supposedly agree not to spread nuclear weapons to other countries, and non-nuclear states promise not to acquire or develop them. The incentive for this is supposed to be that countries with nuclear technology share that technology with non-nuclear countries for peaceful purposes. (The NPT is available at

Even while the NPT is a stacked deck to maintain the current U.S. monopoly on global nuclear terror (with Russia as its only competition), the U.S. is by far the greatest violator of rules in the NPT against the spreading of nuclear weapons technology.

Many of the U.S./NATO nukes in Europe, for example, are set to be deployed in, and under the control of, non-nuclear NATO countries. As a 2005 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) points out, this is a “violation of Non-Proliferation Treaty’s (NPT) main objective.” (“U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe: A Review of Post-Cold War Policy, Force Levels, and War Planning,” by Hans M. Kristensen, Natural Resources Defense Council, February 2005)

One of the fundamental goals of the NPT is supposed to be “the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to undertake effective measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament.” The U.S. has developed “bunker buster” nuclear bombs—again in violation of the NPT and other treaties that prohibit the development of new nuclear weapons. By upgrading its nukes, modernizing them, and integrating a nuclear war component into its warfighting strategy, the U.S. eclipses anything any so-called “rogue nation” could even dream of in undermining the stated intent of the NPT.

For years, the U.S. has targeted non-nuclear nations (including Iran) with nukes. A recent article in Scientific American, based on documents obtained by scientists using the Freedom of Information Act, revealed that “The [U.S.] nuclear warheads resting on ballistic missiles in silos, circling the globe in submarines or carried—sometimes mistakenly—by aircraft” are targeted at “so-called ‘regional proliferators,’ smaller states seeking to acquire such weapons of mass destruction.” The latest list of targeted countries made available to the authors of the article, for 2002, included North Korea, Libya, Iran, and Syria (“‘Axis of Evil’ Targeted by U.S. Nuclear Weapons” by David Biello, November 5, 2007). Targeting nations without nuclear weapons for nuclear attack is in violation of NPT agreements.

And then there’s Israel—the only country in the Middle East armed with nuclear weapons. Israel has never signed the NPT, and its nuclear weapons program is unsupervised and uninspected by the IAEA. Israel has an estimated 400 nuclear and thermonuclear weapons, and is developing the capacity to launch them from submarines (“U.S. Air Force: Israel has 400 nukes, building naval force,” World Tribune, July 4, 2002). Israel’s current missile capacity can fire nuclear warheads into Iran and every other nation in the Middle East.

In January 2005, Dick Cheney made a not-very-veiled threat that Israel could attack Iran: “One of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked... Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards.”  (MSNBC interview, January 2005)

The U.S., right now, holds nuclear weapons over the heads of the people of the world. A U.S. attack on Iran, under the pretext of stopping nuclear weapons proliferation, could very likely involve the use of nuclear weapons. In an article in The New Yorker that outlines highly developed plans for a U.S. attack on Iran, Seymour Hersh writes, “One of the military’s initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites.” (“The Iran Plans: Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb?” by Seymour M. Hersh, April 17, 2006).

Imagine the Pandora’s box that would be opened by the first actual use of a nuclear bomb in the Middle East by the U.S. That would set a precedent for all kinds of new development and potential for use of nuclear weapons. And it would escalate the whole MacWorld vs. Jihad clash with terrible consequences.

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

What Humanity Needs
From Ike to Mao and Beyond