By Patrick Dele Cole
THE role of the US in Iraq is rather unedifying. President Bush encouraged Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to attack Iran in a bitter war. He invited hundreds of Iraqi scientists to the US to train and research in nuclear technology. When Secretary of State, John Kerry said: “We can’t let politics and mythology cloud reality”. What did he mean?
Kissinger said that for a major oil producer to pursue policy such as trans-nuclear energy was a wasteful use of resources. But was it the place of the US to dictate how a nation ran its economy? The US position, followed slavishly by the West, was a smoke screen. Moreover, these were materials that a decade or generation before were being openly offered in the Middle East.
US actively encouraged these countries, despite the 1968 nuclear non proliferation treaty, to acquire nuclear power technology. US had a policy named “Atoms for Peace” which allowed its participation in the International Atomic Pool and thus gave friendly governments access to 40,000 kilogrammes of Uranium – 235 for non military research.
For 30 years, the US and indeed all western countries were sharing nuclear technology, components and materials with countries in the Middle East. It was a centre point in US policy so long as that country, enjoying the nuclear sharing privilege, would oppose USSR. For example, the US supported the Shah who needed nuclear power.
In 1974, US sold two reactors to Iran. It also sold enriched uranium to Iran. This agreement was extended in 1975 with a new US$15 billion trade deal which included the purchase of eight nuclear reactors for US$ 6.4 billion with a processing facility that would extract plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel, thus enabling Iran to operate a nuclear fuel cycle. From that to nuclear weapons was but a small step. Both Iraq and Iran had major nuclear programmes. They sent scores of Iranians and Iraqis worldwide for nuclear training. In 1975, work began in Bashihr with the aid of a West German company, Craftwork union AG, to provide internal nuclear fuel load and reloading for 10 years.
Eight more reactors were to be provided by Brown Boveri and Framatome. Contracts were signed for France to undertake and to reprocess uranium for Iran. Iraq had a plan to build six nuclear bombs a year and sought co-operation from France, Italy, and Canada. France built the Osiris reactor. All this was done under the watchful eye of the Israeli who had begun to feel that they may be sold out of this race to get nuclear bomb in Iraq. They should know because their own bombs were obtained through clandestine research and help from outside Israel. It became Israeli policy to sabotage nuclear programmes in the rest of the Middle East.
The US tried to dissuade Pakistan from pursuing its own nuclear project by promising Pakistan that it could benefit from the facility being built in Iran under a scheme devised by no other than Dick Cheney, for the plant to serve as hub for energy needs in the area. In Pakistan’s case, their nuclear activity was built so deep underground in the 1970s and thus was able, covertly, to test its nuclear programme. Ultimately a successful detonation was carried out. Its programme went unchecked. They built five tunnels each capable of withstanding 20 kethon detonation.
The West believed that an under developed country like Pakistan could never master nuclear bomb technology, and “yet Western countries sold everything to us”; “literally begged us to buy their equipment”, according to Chief Pakistani nuclear sources. Double standards was the name of the game. France, UK, US refused inspection of their facilities by the Atomic Energy Agency. They, however, would insist that other nations be subject to IAA inspection. But the real hypocrisy, in the cold light of day, lay in the enthusiasm with which the developed world rushed to earn hard cash or gain access to cheap oil. In 1976, Kissinger advised Pakistan to wind down its reprocessing project and rely instead on a Dick Cheney devised US facility in Iran.
Since the Second World War resources had been poured into Iran and neighbouring countries, leaders had been courted, indulged and those who would not play, were deposed. Syria and Iraq looked to USSR. The net result of the arms race was that everybody lost, but the Middle East lost most, emerging as an endemically, unstable place.
Nevertheless, India built its own nuclear arsenal. Pakistan turned to the US. But as Khomeini put it “All our problems come from America”. The fall of the Shah produced major panic in US; and corresponding hope in USSR that they would soon take over influence in Iran.
To balance the influence of the West in the Middle East, the USSR invaded Afghanistan. Under the USSR, Afghanistan was en route to modernity. It expanded education, male and female, new schools, hospitals increase tremendously, so did the literacy levels thus broke the feudal structure of tribal system, ending ethnic discrimination. Job security, women’s rights were promoted, regardless of the latter day propaganda epitomised by Miss Molalla. After the ousting of Dawud in 1973 by Taraki who was himself overthrown by Hafianllas Aminu, thought to have been recruited by the CIA, marked the beginning of the widely held belief that Al Qaeda was a CIA creation.
Oil was and is abundant. There was a rising demand between 1940s – 80s ushering in a fundamental rebalancing of power; or at least ought to. For example, during the Yom Kippur war, Algeria and Libya which provided 30 per cent of Europe’s oil needs suspended shipments to Britain and United States. In 1970, Iraq attitude stiffened further to the West, when Prime Minister Qasim was ousted from power and publicly executed on television “for the whole world to see.” The Iraqi war led to a broader struggle to free the Arab nations from the domination of western imperialism and from exploitation by oil monopolists. Khomeini is reported to have said: “The American President is the most repellent member of the human race”. British and American oil men were equated with “blood suckers”. Now, such strong statements were a clear sign that the West had to respond to such rhetoric by the only way they knew how – by regime change.
Is there continuity in West’s Policy in Middle East and Africa? I hope this dive into the history emphasises the theses that the Middle East and Africa are doomed to failure because of the unhinged policy of the US and the West, China and Russia. How about Arab instability? This has been stoked by a continuity of the policy of exploitation – and a result of US policy in the 1950s and later. The West has treated Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with kid gloves. Why is the West not pressing on Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and more Arab nations apart from Jordan to take Arab Immigrants? Is it that they do not want to antagonise Saudi Arabia and Kuwait?