India, Iran and Nonproliferation and The Sky is Falling

Democratic Hawk Rep. Berman gave two stunningly contradictory statements today, statements that I think it's not too much to call hypocritical. On one hand, he lauded the approval by the House of legislation supposedly aimed at bringing Iran's nuclear program to heel:

This legislation (H.R. 7112) attempts to further restrict US dealings with Iran, even if those dealings are through third countries.

"Asserting the need to force Iran's hand on its nuclear weapons program and its support of international terrorism, the House on Friday moved to reinforce sanctions against the Tehran government.

The House legislation, approved on a voice vote, would also authorize state and local governments to divest the assets of their pension funds and investments in companies that have invested more than $20 million in Iran's oil industry.

The vote comes on the same day the U.N. Security Council, in a compromise worked out by the United States and Russia, issued a resolution condemning Iran's nuclear program but not adding to past sanctions imposed on Iran for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment program. The U.S., Britain and France had sought tougher sanctions but were opposed by Russia and China.

The House bill would also:

— Codify and expand export and import bans on U.S.-Iran trade.

— Freeze assets in the U.S. held by those close to the Iranian government.

— Make a U.S. company liable for sanctions violations if it uses a foreign subsidiary to get around the sanctions.

— Give the Treasury Department greater authority to fight terrorist financing.

— Increase export controls on countries involved in transshipment of sensitive technologies to Iran."

Berman states:

"The sanctions that the United States and the international community thus far have placed on Iran have squeezed Iran’s economy somewhat perhaps, but clearly not enough significantly to slow down its nuclear program. The present strategy is not working. I’m disappointed, and I believe that the Iranian regime is surely heartened -- by the failure of urgency the Administration’s to produce the kind of results we need regarding Iran’s nuclear program. We need to make our foreign-policy priorities clear, and Iran must be at the very top of the agenda in our dealings with other countries. Sanctions will never work unless we have buy-in and support from other key countries."

Dem-Hawk Berman's view of this anti-Iran bill is, not surprisingly, very aggressive. He says that he hopes to control the behavior of third party countries with respect to Iran - a major step towards a blockade against Iran, towards actual war (even though, in the Beltway's usual Orwellian manner, the word "peaceful" has been inserted into the title of the Bill, and the bill denies that it authorizes military force). This Iran bill and Berman's statement is disturbing on a number of levels. History has shown that sanctions serve mainly to hurt the civilian populations of the countries they are imposed on, often strengthening the popularity of the leaders of those countries and escalating conflict.

"Sanctions are often viewed as an alternative to military force. By punishing an offending party economically, socially, or politically, rather than militarily, those who impose sanctions hope to solve a conflict without the mass suffering and sacrifice required by war. Indeed, sanctions have sometimes been effective, and are widely used. But their use is much more common than their success: studies indicate that only five to, at most, 30 percent of sanctions result in the desired change.[1] [2] The use of sanctions also comes with significant risks.


The effectiveness of sanctions is questionable. It is clear that the more harm sanctions have on their target, the more likely they are to influence the target's behavior. The human costs of such sanctions, however, are often unacceptable and make international support unlikely. Moreover, sanctions are likely to have greater effect on their target if the target government is faced with domestic opposition; otherwise, sanctions may simply encourage greater political cohesion around the targeted leadership.

Conflict often arises due to one party's feeling that they lack political, economic, or security resources. Sanctions, by definition, intend to further weaken the target, increasing their anxiety, and escalating a conflict."

Such has been the case with Iran. Ordinary folks in Iran are taking the brunt, while Ahmadinejad is enabled by US pressure to hold onto a position he undoubtedly would never have gained in the first place, or would have lost a long time ago, were it not for US pressure and threats.

Additionally, the US often loses out when it tries to isolate other countries economically. A great example is Cuba. Cuba could be one of our best trading partners. Instead the isolation continues (with the eager help of Dem-Hawk Berman) and Castro's grip on power hasn't weakened one iota. In the case of Iran, Russia, China and India have all strengthened their ties with Iran, apparently taking full advantage of the US' hostility towards Iran.

But what's most disturbing about this ant-Iran bill and about Berman's rant in support of it is the continuing insistence that Iran's nuclear program is and should be America's top priority. This is just phony beyond belief. One feels one is watching a script written by Kafka. Berman states:

"this measure ... will significantly strengthen our nation’s peaceful efforts to counter Iran’s nuclear weapons program. "

Notice how Berman takes for granted the totally unproven notion that Iran has a "nuclear weapons program". Indications are that it doesn't, and that if it ever did, that was back when it was also thought by many that Iraq might have one, Iraq being a nation that had already attacked Iran with (partially US supplied) WMD. So the hypocrisy runs deep here. But Berman goes further:

"Mr. Speaker, preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power to me is one of the great national security challenges of our age."

It's amazing to me that this kind of thing is taken sooooo very seriously in Washington DC. With all due respect to Berman, and to the many in the Washington establishment who are obsessed with Iran, Iran is very small potatoes. It is a weak country, that has attacked no one, that does not appear to have a nuclear weapons program, and even if it DID have one, such a program would make little difference in a neighborhood full of nukes (India has them, Pakistan has them, Israel has them, Iraq has them (via the US), Russia has them, China has them, Afganistan has them (via the US), Saudi Arabia may already be developing them. The nonproliferation treaty is nearly dead letter at this point, and not because of Iran; least of all because of Iran. Iran has one of the MOST inspected programs.

Berman goes on to make a ludicrous case for how cosmically important Iran's alleged (but totally unproven) nuclear weapons program is:

"A nuclear-armed, fundamentalist Iran would become the dominant power in its region. The global nonproliferation regime would crumble; already today we know that many of Iran’s neighbors are contemplating their own nuclear programs – and can anyone be sure that Iran, with a leader who speaks like he speaks now, would not resort to either the use of nuclear weapons or to the hand-off of those weapons to terrorist organizations? "

It is to laugh, right? Israel is the dominant power in the region, NO MATTER WHAT. Iran can at best hope to catch up with Israel, and considering the constant support Israel gets from the US, there's little to no chance of that. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has reportedly long been working on a nuclear weapons program with Pakistan:

"Saudi Arabia is working secretly on a nuclear program, with help from Pakistani experts, the German magazine Cicero reported in its latest edition, citing Western security sources. "

And when it comes to handing off weapons to terrorists, there's precious little chance that Iran would do that, because the terrorists we are worried about (such as Al Queda) are enemies of Iran and a threat to Iran's stability. But we KNOW that Saudi Arabia almost certain WOULD hand off weapons to terrorists, since we know that Saudi Arabia continues to fund them.

"Saudi Arabia remains the world’s leading source of money for Al Qaeda and other extremist networks and has failed to take key steps requested by U.S. officials to stem the flow, the Bush administration’s top financial counter-terrorism official said Tuesday."

So Berman's anti-Iran hawking would appear to be some kind of a joke, almost. But it's a scary joke, because like the US (and Berman's) strong stand over Georgia, it commits the US to a line drawn in the sand over an insignifigant issue. This is exactly the kind of problem that led to WW1. The US is staking itself to a position that is untenable, foolish, and hypocritical, but which could have horrendous consequences.

Not insignifigantly, the anti-Iran bill also continues to hand off the pattern of handing off Congressional power to the Executive branch, in this case to the Treasury Secretary (who seems to be more powerful than the President these days).


Meanwhile, the same day that Berman attacked Iran so virulently, he nodded approval at nuclear agreement between the US and India.

"On balance, integrating India into a global nonproliferation regime is a positive step. "

Berman admits to anxieties about ambiguities in the India agreement. Ambiguities, Representative? Good grief, the problem with this bill is the same as it has always been. It places no restrictions or oversight (that I'm aware of) on India's military nuclear program,

"Ambassador Robert Grey, a former U.S. representative to the Conference on Disarmament, urges lawmakers to take more time to review the agreement.

"This is a bad deal that we are getting into here in terms of nonproliferation. We created the nonproliferation regime, we got it through the international community. We supported it consistently over successive administrations, both Republican and Democrat. Now we have reversed course. We are opening a hole with this agreement with India that you could drive a truck through," he said."

Others voiced stronger opposition:

""Approval of this agreement undermines our efforts to dissuade countries like Iran and North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. By approving this agreement, all we are doing is creating incentives for other countries to withdraw from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty," said Barbara Lee, a California Democrat.

Democrat Edward Markey said it fails to meet even minimal nonproliferation conditions Congress has required, and poses unacceptable risks to U.S. security and the nuclear nonproliferation regime. "By breaking the rules for India, we are making it less likely that the rules will hold against Iran or anyone else. Iran is looking at this deal for India and they're saying "where can I sign up?""

Bingo. How absurd that we would reward India for it's well known and extensive nuclear weapons program, while sanctimoniously and almostly hysterically shaking a fist at Iran for its unproven and at most tiny nuclear weapons program.

And then there's Israel. Israel is a nation with a long track record of attacking its neighbors (West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, even the US (USS Liberty)). Israel is currently threatening to attack Iran. Israel has a huge nuclear weapons program that is totally uncontrolled. If US foreign policy made any sense, we'd be concerned about Israel's nuclear weapons program far more than India's, and we'd be concerned about India's as much as Pakistan's, and we'd be concerned about Saudi Arabia's alleged program as much as Pakistan's, and we'd be concerned about ALL OF THESE more than Iran's (barely) alleged program.

But no. Nearly everyone in DC seems to agree that Iran is the latest "sky is falling" scenario. From the McCain-Obama debate:

"But McCain went on the attack over Obama's offer to offer dialogue to Iran.

"It isn't just naive, it is dangerous," McCain, warning that a nuclear armed Tehran threatened a "second Holocaust."

Obama agreed a nuclear Iran would be a "gamechanger" and urged tougher sanctions. But he also defended his call for diplomacy.

"We also have to engage in tough, direct diplomacy with Iran," Obama said, adding he would reserve the right as president "to meet with anybody at a time and place of my choosing if I think it's going to keep America safe.""

Holocaust? Gamechanger? Is it possible that this kind of hysterical verbage is coming from the people vying to become the leaders of this Nation and the World? Can this really be true?

Please, WAKE UP AMERICA!!! There are far more important issues than the politically and militarily weak nation of Iran.