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American National Security in the Age of Insecurity: 5/5
by Dr. Habib Siddiqui
2008-09-04 08:25:56
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The Technology Divide

Most Muslims think, and quite justifiably, that the western world, especially the USA and Christian Europe, likes to keep them technologically backward, more like consumers than producers of technology. Their claim is bolstered by the fact that the western world has been decisively uncooperative, and often hostile, to technology transfer in the Muslim world. This is grossly unfair to a region that is so rich with natural resources.

This attitude of the West has been a recurrent theme since the colonial days when the then Bengal – known for her fine muslin and jute – would be sidelined from having any cotton and jute mill in its soil. All such factories had to be in the Great Britain, in places like Dundee. Even when in later years of British rule such industries were allowed to take root, those factories were mostly built along the Hooghly River in Kolkata of West Bengal and not East Bengal (now Bangladesh) that produced such raw materials.

Sadly, in the post-colonial era, that western mindset to deprive Muslim world of technology transfer has not receded. Thus, the Middle Eastern countries can produce bulk of the raw materials required for our highly technology-driven modern lifestyle, but they cannot have those industries that produce such amenities. They can supply oil and natural gas, but they are ignored by the major chemical and specialty chemicals companies from manufacturing petroleum derivatives – the building blocks for so much of our consumer and construction products today. Naturally, in spite of vast resources of oil and iron ore, there is not a single western car maker having a car manufacturing factory in places like Saudi Arabia. A Fortune 500 company that is dependent on energy supplies for manufacturing its goods would rather invest in China and India while nearby Indonesia and Malaysia (let alone Iran), with ample of energy resources, and cheap and skilled labor, are overlooked. Outside some investment banking companies now moving to places like Dubai, not much movement of technology has occurred in the Muslim world.

It is no accident that in spite of more than a trillion dollar market capitalization in the Gulf region — the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Yemen – hardly a single Fortune 100 company (of western origin) has a manufacturing facility there. It is no accident that Pakistan and Dr. A. Q. Khan had to run the extra miles to develop its nuclear program. So, the current crusade that is led by the western governments to deny Iran of nuclear technology only reinforces the Muslim belief that the West is fundamentally opposed to seeing progress in the Muslim world. Muslims can buy a jeep, tank, plane and even a missile, but they cannot be allowed to manufacture any of these!

It is there that the USA and her allies need to reevaluate their position vis-à-vis Iran. The failure to adjust there would only foster hostility. The USA shouldn't oppose Iran from her legitimate rights to exploring nuclear technology for energy needs while she herself plans to build more nuclear plants to meet her soaring energy needs. America has also has been indifferent to Israel's possession of 150 nuclear bombs, let alone arming Israel tooth and nail. This behavior is grossly hypocritical and irresponsible to the core. (The just approach would be to dismantle Israel's nuclear arsenal and enforce a nuclear arms-free zone for the entire Middle East and, if possible, our entire planet.)

As America heads for the Presidential election, she must weigh in her option between militarism and changing the way America has been conducting her international affairs. Is military action against Iran desirable? For those undecided on this crucial issue, they may like to heed to the objective and unbiased advice from the IAEA chief.

In an interview with the Financial Times on 19 February, 2007, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA said something which is still very relevant today. He said military action against Iran was not a solution and that it would be catastrophic and counterproductive. He explained, "And I said a hundred times you cannot bomb knowledge. So there is not really much to bomb. And if you [do] then [you] turn the Iranian drive or you put it in high gear for developing a nuclear weapon. We know that if you jolt a country's pride, all the factions, right, left and centre will get together and try to accelerate a program to develop a nuclear weapon to defend themselves. That's classic strategic thinking in any country, whether it's a democracy, a theocracy, whatever... There is a fundamental choice people need to make, which is either you understand that there is a limit to military power, that these issues mask a sense of insecurity or even competition for dominance or influence but force is not the appropriate means to address these issues. Or [you] go for the military option and then either you'll have a repeat of North Korea or you have a repeat of Iraq and these are not our greatest achievements as civilized human beings."

As to the choices ahead for peaceful resolution of the crisis, Dr. ElBaradei cautioned against isolating Iran through further sanctions. He said, "If you create an environment in which Iran feels isolated, in which Iran is subject to further sanctions, then some of these worst-case scenarios could take place, because then you would put the hard liners in the driver's seat, you would make the country feel more and more insecure and then some of these scenarios could happen. If there is another narrative, based on engagement, based on dialogue, based on reconciling differences, based on stabilizing Iraq, stabilizing Lebanon, opening up a trade agreement with the Iranians based on providing [them] with nuclear technology, western technology, as the six party offer [tabled last year by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on behalf of the UK, France, Germany, the US, China and Russia] promises, then this progression could be quite different, because first of all Iran would not necessarily fear that they would be attacked."

Dr. ElBaradei cautioned against threatening regime change. As to what might have motivated Iran to enrich uranium, Dr. ElBaradie said, "Iran sees enrichment... sooner or later as a strategic goal because they feel that this will bring them power, prestige and influence. They feel that this will bring them into the company of some of the large and influential [states], the 12, 13 countries with enrichment processing, even if they don't have a weapon, and to change that perception you need to then to look into the whole regional and global security position, because unfortunately a lot of that is true. A nuclear capability is a nuclear deterrent in many ways...

When you see here in the UK the program for modernizing Trident, which basically gets the UK far into the 21st century with a nuclear deterrent, it is difficult then for us to turn around and tell everybody else that nuclear deterrents are really no good for you, it does not increase your security, because all the weapon states, without exception, are either modernizing, or thinking about developing new weapons not only for deterrence purpose, but actually usable [ones]. Statements have been made during the last couple of years about possible actual use, such as mini-nukes, bunker buster. So the environment is - do as I say not do as I do - and that is not sustainable."

Dr. ElBaradie is absolutely right in his analysis of the problem surrounding Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology. His suggestions for easing the tension, unfortunately, met deaf ears from Washington. From the very beginning the Bush Administration - mortgaged to the Israel Lobby, guided by the Jewish and Christian-Zionist neocons, and aided by the Israel Firsters within the Congress - embarked on a course that was all too confrontational with the ultimate goal of regime change in Iran.

Truly, had it not been for the overwhelming support that the Iranian government enjoys within Iran on the nuclear issue, Bush would have attacked Iran long time ago. The neoconservative groups like the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) have been advocating ‘regime change’ not only for the Arab counties like Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and with the Palestinian Authority but also for Iran for a number of years. JINSA’s board of advisors has included many Bush administration leaders: Dick Cheney, John Bolton, Richard Perle, James Woolsey and Douglas Feith. JINSA put a report out on April 12, 2006, called, "Iran, Iran, Iran and Iran" in which Iran was described as the "whole list of national security priorities."

With looming sanctions and tough talks for war from the USA and Israel, Iran has been pushed further into isolation and forced, as it seems, to running more centrifuges today than a year before.
The Iran nuclear crisis is yet another example of Washington's inability to learn from past mistakes and change the course for the better.


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